Everything seemed happy when my parents actively supported that families should have a girl child. But the next moment my happiness crumpled like a shattered glass menagerie. They said parents who have an only male child are proud and arrogant because they don't have to worry about the safety and marriage of a daughter. While the parents that are "blessed" with a girl child have to be kind, submissive and maintain good social relations as ultimately they have to bow down in order to get her married. The crux was ladke wale are considered as the dominant and demanding while the ladki wale have to be respectful and cater to their demands, however ridiculous they might be. When are we going to get rid of this preference for a male child?
It is 2020 but even today the preference for a male child prevails in our society, leading to increasing cases of foeticide, girl child abandonment and negligence towards the girl's education, health and well-being. The United Nations Population Fund released a data this year, revealing that India accounts for 45.8 million of the world's 142.6 million missing females over the past 50 years. These are the women who are abandoned and killed due to the post-natal and pre-natal sex selection over a time. Moreover, data collected in 2017 by UNICEF, states that 60 per cent of infants admitted to state-run hospitals for child care are boys and in 600,000 deaths of children in 2018, girls outnumbered boys.
The gender bias is so deeply rooted that families literally look for reasons that justify that having a girl child is good for them. Even today, families without a male child are often considered incomplete.
Certainly, I am proud of my parents when they say it is important to embrace girl children. But the reasons they give exposes their patriarchal biases. Although they are supportive of women, they do not believe that women should have an individual identity. They consider them a burden on the family. And so a family is benevolent if it accepts women. They are ok allowing women marginal freedoms that do not threaten the patriarchal centre.
A family should have daughters to know about real struggles in life because not everyone dares raise a daughter in the cruel world. A family should have daughters because women are eulogised as goddesses of happiness and prosperity and performing her kanyadaan is a blessing not everyone gets in life. But what if women don't conform to these ideal images? What if they are arrogant, speak their mind and do whatever they want? What if they are prone to committing mistakes like all human beings? What if they a have desires which they want to act upon?
Unfortunately, in the world that we inhabit today, bringing up a daughter is indeed a challenge. A parent who wants to allow all the freedom to his/her daughter has to face immense criticism. But then is it right to force women to compromise with her choices and conform to the expectations of her parents and society just because they gave her life?
Bringing up a girl child wouldn't have been so difficult if society gave importance to her choice, agency and individuality. The fear of woman's safety and the burden of her marriage wouldn't have been greater than the emphasis on her education and self-development if women weren't seen as fragile and suppressed beings whose body is the ground of sexual, political and familial violence. Is it right to let the patriarchal traditions define whether a girl should come to life or not? Why don't we eradicate the wrongs, bias and discriminatory nature of the tradition rather?
It is high time that we shatter the stereotypes that girl children a burden. It is a positive sign that many parents today are readily embracing a girl child. But they need to stop looking at women as oppressed beings. Parents should bring up daughters not with empathy or sympathy for the struggles they have to face in a male-dominated society but with a belief that women are essentially human beings with have equal rights to be empowered. There is a need to change the society that undermines a woman's freedom rather than forcing a woman to stop living and dreaming.